Google's Antitrust Dance with the FTC: Analysts Weigh In
Google might have been heading on a lenient path with the FTC’s antitrust investigation, but critics may be getting the agency to be more aggressive.More likely, however, is that the FTC is putting the issue into the background right now because of other bigger issues in the forefront in Washington today, such as the looming fiscal cliff, the upcoming Presidential Inauguration and the slow recovery of the global economy, said King. "I think someone at the FTC is saying, 'We don't need to come out with a controversial ruling now before the holidays," he said. "Personally, I think that's probably the more likely scenario no matter what the rumors are otherwise. Doing so doesn't really hurt anybody. They’ve got much larger issues on their plate." One of the biggest criticisms from critics of a gentle FTC approach against Google arose in November, when word got out that the settlement talks between Google and the FTC might not include a key part of the U.S. government's concerns about Google's business practices. What was missing was language addressing one of the most serious charges against Google—that it intentionally manipulates search results to harm competitors. Instead, the talks were focusing on less controversial issues, such as how the company uses patents and how it displays comments collected from other Internet services. Google was first notified by the FTC of a "formal review" of its business practices in June 2011 after similar reviews began in Europe. At that time, the European Commission launched an investigation into the company's search practices after vertical search engines such as Foundem, eJustice.fr and Microsoft's Ciao complained the company favored its own Web services in search results on Google.com over theirs. They argued that this put them at a significant competitive disadvantage in the market.